Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wines to Sip with Soup

By Liza B. Zimmerman


My crock-pot is going all year long, but in the winter months it's turning out multiple dishes a week and sometimes a day. Even though the cold months are hardly frigid in San Francisco, it is still nice to have the heat and lovely aromas coming out of my kitchen.

One of my favorite dishes has long been soup. My mom had to pack a thermos of it everyday for me when I was a kid and never wanted a sandwich. I have moved on from Campbell's and make a huge range of primarily vegetable-based soups, full of hearty meats.

Stock is Key
What stock base you use--vegetable, chicken and beef are the most common--is going to influence your wine pairing choices. I am a fan of beef broth in almost anything as it tends to give dishes a more savory and complex flavor.

Whether you make your own, or buy bullion cubes--I won't tell anyone--beef is going to give a soup a more earthy and comparably robust flavor. Funky, umami-flavored wines are going to life these dishes up. A little Oregon Pinot Noir or perhaps Barbaresco like Conterno's "Cerretta" (really anything made with the Nebbiolo grape) is going to pair beautifully.

Wines with mushroom notes, particularly when they are part of the hot pot's ingredients, bring expansive wet earth notes to a soup pairing. In my book that is not bad. think of anything you might pair with locally foraged mushrooms, such as medium-acid Pinot Noirs from the Mendocino Coast or rowdy reds from the South and Southwest of France, such as Cahors and Côtes-du-Rhône.

Lighter Soups
Chicken, and vegetable, stocks will make your soup a little lighter and may enable you to go down the high-acid red, or even white wine, path. They will also allow the green, feisty and difficult-to-manage ancient vegetables to sing a bit more with wine.

If you soup contains dark meat from a chicken, you may want to go with still somewhat earthy wines: such as Loire Valley reds or lighter styles of Washington State or Central Coast Bordeaux blends. If you want to keep flavors lighter and less animal-fat influenced go with big whites with a lot of structure, such as Rhône Whites or their domestic brethren. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane may be your best friends with chicken-stock flavored soups. A very yeasty Champagne might also do the trick, but I would stick to a blanc de blancs and steer away from rosés.

Those Difficult Vegetables
When strong vegetal flavors take the lead in your soups you have to be careful. The herbal flavors of asparagus and artichokes are legendary for being hard to pair with wines. You might add fennel to the lineup as well as its licorice notes are hard to content with in a wine pairing.

Match green with green. Highly vegetal wines will pair up and partner with these intense green notes. Care for a little Grǖner Veltliner with that vegetable soup. These wines often smell, and taste, like a freshly plowed field so enjoy the match. Farm fresh Sauvignon Blancs, especially from New Zealand such as Babich, and many from California as well will also let these great vegetal flavors shine. Many of South Africa's Sauvignon Blancs run a bit more fruit-forward but they might also do the trick. Don't forget some of those classic White Bordeaux, particularly from Entre-deux-Mers, that also tend to have a lovely fruit to green intensity balance.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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